Major New Climbing Centre in Sheffield

© Awesome Walls
A major new climbing centre has been proposed for Sheffield which promises to be the biggest and boldest undertaking yet. The city that was home to the first purpose-built wall when the Foundry opened over 20 years ago now has four walls added including the the Edge and ClimbingWorks.

The design for the competition wall at the new Awesome Walls Sheffield  © Awesome Walls
The design for the competition wall at the new Awesome Walls Sheffield
© Awesome Walls

This new project is being undertaken by Dave Douglas, the man behind the very successful Liverpool, Stockport, Stoke and now Dublin Awesome Climbing Walls. Dave gave me a ring last month since he was super-excited about the project after finding a brilliant building in east Sheffield. I nipped over to take a look and it has to be said that the word 'awesome' is indeed extra appropriate in this case. The building is vast and has amazing potential for both huge lead walls and large bouldering areas.

From the planning application which you can read here:

1.6 The proposed climbing centre in Sheffield will be the largest of its kind in England. Awesome Walls intend to build on their extensive experience accrued over the last 14 years and achieve their aim of creating England's first 'National Climbing Centre of Excellence'.

1.7 Climbing potentially may become an Olympic Sport and the centre would then become the main training ground and home for competitiors.

Awesome Walls Sheffield building outside  © Alan James
The building proposed for Awesome Walls in Sheffield

I asked Dave a few questions about the project and he sent the following extensive reply:

19 years old, Escort Mark II full of climbers, chips and egos we were lost without a map. To make matters worse it was lashing it down and the windscreen wipers had packed up! None of this mattered of course because we were in Sheffield, Sheffield was home to all the top climbers, every other person was a climber in Sheffield, we could just knock on a door and our fellow enthusiast would welcome his brothers in with open arms surely!

I'm not sure where we stayed that night, it was probably huddled up in the car, what a mess. As keen as we were, it was wet, very wet so we did what all climbers did (and still do), we mooched around Outside looking at gear we couldn't afford before heading upstairs to the café. We'd then play the game of how long can you make a pot of tea and round of toast last between four before been kicked out!

We all though it but who was going to suggest it, mentioning it would have show weakness, this weakness would have been the carried for years to come in general boyish mick-taking! The Foundry was calling!

Fast forward 20 years and here I am about to embark on my largest project to date, in Sheffield.

Sheffield is still the Mecca for climbers that it always has been with the numbers increasing every year. It was while I was doing research on Awesome Walls Dublin that my interest was stirred. The fact that there were more climbers registered on a database in S7 than the whole of Ireland started me thinking.

Six months later, with Dublin about to open, who would have thought I'd be embarking on another project so soon?

What I envisage bringing to Sheffield is a modern, bright, cutting edge facility that all climbers, from beginners to rock athletes, will want to train in and return to on a regular basis. Our catchment is aimed at the whole of the UK not just Sheffield. We are an easy 5 minutes from the M1, junction 34.

What we are building is big, very big! Since opening the Climbing House in 1999 we like to think we have been setting the standards that other centres follow and build on. The new Sheffield project is going to raise the bar once again. The British Mountaineering Council recently released a document that outlines the criteria for a 'National Performance Centre'. This document has the required details of what a centre of national importance should house. We believe that our new centre will not only fulfil the requirements but surpass them by far.

My initial thought was to start building as soon as possible to be open for Christmas 2012. Alas, this is not to be, a project of this size needs careful planning to make sure it's a commercial success and not follow in the footsteps of two other major walls in the UK that were a bit to big for their boots!

The change of usage for planning permission has been submitted, several wall manufactures have been consulted and the plans are growing more exciting by the day. If we're going to do this in Sheffield, we have to do it right.

Initially a two phase build was proposed but now this has been scrapped and we're going for the full hit even though this will delay our opening a couple of months.

Assuming planning permission is granted by the end of September we aim to be open early 2013 but we have some serious work to undertake not to mention getting AWCC Dublin open on time!

Many ideas are being thrown into the pot, some old tried and tested, some new bright and bold, the end result will be a facility where everyone can shine. We will be taking the walls from extreme - 15 meters overhang to gentle slabs with all angles and heights between. There's many ideas that will be a pleasant surprise to the regular wall climber but you'll have to follow our progress to keep up to speed with them.

I like to think of Awesome Walls as more of a family of climbers than a chain of climbing walls, I think the majority of climbers that already use us would agree.
- Dave Douglas, Awesome Walls

If you would like to keep in touch with developments then you can follow it on the Awesome Walls Sheffield Facebook page.

Inside the building is a vast open central hall with many other side rooms attached

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23 Aug, 2012
Spot on. Close to my office in Rotherham. That massive hook that's in there would be ideal for route setting as well.
23 Aug, 2012
I'd be interested to know what the criteria actually is to be a "National Performance Centre"? I can't find the doc on the BMC website (probably because it's not online). At the moment, EICA: Ratho is probably the only wall in the country capable of "comfortably" hosting a national event such as the YCS (because of the sheer number of competitors and spectators). Would the ability to host events such as that or European Cups and World Cups/Championships be a main point in the criteria? If it is, then this place better have a floor space at least as big as Ratho otherwise they will be struggling to host such events.
23 Aug, 2012
From the brief description this place looks totally incpapable of being ether a host venue for an international comp or a training venue for a national squad. Dave should stick to what he knows best building great punter walls. I really hope there is no tax payers money in this. And since when was climbing a possiblility in the next olympics!
23 Aug, 2012
Great, just what sheffield needs, another wall to get the winter queues down. climbed at Daves original pre Awsome walls in Liverpool. Top bloke, great walls look forward to them comming over to Sheffield.
Hi Robbie The BMC document is here- Hosting European and World cups are not essential for the title of 'National Performance Centre'. With the building, knowledge and finance we have, we will do our best to mange a very large facility that will not become bankrupt. Ratho's a fantastic facility but It's a shame it doesn't make a profit (from what I've heard). Looking at your profile it would be great to have you on our side to help get this right. All the best Dave D.
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